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Why Are We in a Teacher Shortage and How Can We Fix It?

Why Are We in a Teacher Shortage and How Can We Fix It?

Help fill the empty chairs in classrooms nationwide.

Thanks to some major challenges in the profession, we are facing a teacher shortage in some areas of the country. The good news it that school personnel, parents, and policy makers are now very aware of changes that need to be made to improve the state of education and the teaching profession as a whole.

So how can we work together to address these issues and encourage more people to pursue a career in education?

Increase Funding for Teachers and Schools

Both state and federal governments need to invest in incentives to attract the best and brightest to the teaching profession. Federal or state grants might draw more prospective teachers to preparation programs in academic areas where there is a scarcity of teachers. Federal programs for college loan forgiveness might encourage more teachers to look for jobs in high-needs schools. Having more options for high-quality, low-cost online teacher preparation programs would also encourage prospective teachers to enter the profession without worrying about heavy college loan debt dragging them down.

Teachers College Scholarships

States are starting to restore school aid lost during the recession. As they determine budgets, state legislatures should consider investing more in schools and teacher training programs instead of standardized testing. Both state and federal aid need to keep up with the growing demands of a diverse student population, especially in large cities, if education is to improve. And finally, teacher salaries need to improve to compete with other careers for bright, committed graduates.

Focus on Comprehensive Teacher Evaluation

Teachers (and students) are more than a test number. Teacher training should be ongoing, starting with mentors for new teachers and including in-service training for everyone. Principals should also be trained in effective teaching practices so they can help new teachers develop their skills. No decisions about a teacher's effectiveness, let alone continued employment, should be based on a single year of test scores.

Further reading: Is Going Back to School for Teaching Right for You? 

Facing a teacher shortage, some states have lowered the requirements for entry-level teachers. But these beginners, if they're to succeed, will need continuing education and support. As a teacher, you can be an advocate for quality education by taking part in your state's teachers' associations and paying attention to your local and state representatives' positions on funding for education and evaluation of teachers.

Doing Our Part for the Future

Teachers play an important role in improving support for education by making sure parents and the public are aware of the important job they do. Kids still need strong, competent, compassionate teachers. The job is more than helping students learn to read and do math. Teachers show kids how to behave, and they help them dream and aspire to reach their goals. They challenge, encourage, and teach kids how to reason carefully and well. Teachers are role models who support their students and truly make a difference in their lives. Because of this, people who enter the profession need to be able to remain optimistic about the future, despite setbacks. They need to be determined to change what doesn't work in education today.

Further reading: 4 Ways to Leverage Online Teaching Jobs

Teacher shortages remind the public that not everyone can do this job, and without changes, the few who can might not choose to do so. Whether you're a prospective or current teacher, it's important to not be afraid of committing to your career. Despite the challenges, it's important work that we do, and if you're vocal enough, you may be able to help set the right kind of changes in motion.